1/24/2021 0 Comments
The Sunday Sermon & 2020 Priest's Annual Report: Speak, Lord, for Your Servants are Listening
By the Reverend Sally S. Weaver
I feel it necessary to apologize before I begin. Eighteen individuals submitted reports for today’s Annual Meeting, not including the three clergy. That represents 18 different ministries. And within each ministry there are other people in addition to the leader who give their time, offer their good ideas, and expend effort in achieving the goals of their missional work. I will not recognize or honor all of their – all of your – contributions in this report and for that I am sorry. I’m glad that the Annual Meeting includes time for us to hear from those 18 ministry leaders, so that we can honor the work of everyone who so selflessly and tirelessly worked in 2020 on behalf of Christ through St. John’s Church.
Worship -- praising God, hearing God’s holy Word, offering our prayers, and raising our voices in song – this is the beating heart of the Church. Worship reminds us who we are and whose we are. Church is a filling station. We come to worship on Sundays to be filled up with the presence, peace, and love of God. Then we spend the week pouring out that graciousness on all those we encounter. We are filled up so that we may be poured out, spreading the love of God in Christ, doing the work of forgiveness, justice, and reconciliation that God has given us to do.
Worship became a challenge in mid-March, once the church building was closed because of Covid. Working with Ann Quay Rushing, Gina Malone, Tracy Baker, and the rest of the Worship and Music team has been a delight for me this year. I can honestly say that I anticipated with eagerness each Worship and Music meeting. This group tackled the problem of virtual worship as a challenge to surmount rather than a grievance to complain about. Their creativity, energy and enthusiasm enabled us to offer worship that included performances by our children and wonderful adult musicians, a Zoom pet blessing, and use of an Agape liturgy with a Mevo camera, purchased for St. John’s. We all agree that even after in-person worship resumes, the Mevo camera will continue to be used in the sanctuary to livestream worship on Sunday mornings. We can now offer live worship to those who are homebound or in care facilities. Using that capability is here to stay.
As an outgrowth of the nationwide call for racial reckoning, St. John’s formed a Racial Justice committee in 2020. The importance of this work can’t be overstated. We people of European descent are just beginning to recognize how solidly our country has been built on white supremacy and white privilege. I know of no greater work for Christians than to dismantle structures that perpetuate the heinous lie of difference based on skin color.
A pandemic changed the way the weekly Saturday evening Peace Meal was conducted, but it didn’t prevent it from happening. And Correne Murphy’s Person to Person Street Ministry with homeless people in St. Louis hasn’t skipped a beat. All racial and social efforts require discernment. Throughout the work the supplication will continue to be, “Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.”
Christian formation for children has been suspended since March. Our children have neither needed nor wanted yet another virtual learning experience, nor has the Young Adult group. Once in-person gatherings resume, so will lively engagement with children and young adults about Jesus and the Gospel. Adult Bible and book studies did continue throughout the 2020 pandemic, however. Brent Brower-Toland led a Lenten study, and Christine Watts the Book Group in probing texts that challenged and stimulated participants’ thinking. Studying the Bible texts used in worship continued each Sunday from 9:30-10:15 a.m., changing from in-person to Zoom without skipping a beat.
Deacon Kevin McGrane and the Building and Grounds Committee, headed by Rodney Malone, were hard at work on the building throughout 2020. The Parish Administrator’s office has been moved to the Wainwright Building. Shortly, the Rector’s office will also reside there. The upstairs library space in Wainwright will be updated to accommodate the Treasurer and Person to Person Street Ministry. The spaces that the clergy, administrator, and treasurer have vacated will become rental offices in the very near future. This will enhance the church’s revenues while providing good workspace for a non-profit organization in need of it.
St. John’s Vestry, and particularly Senior Warden John Eads, have put in long hours to serve the best interests of St. John’s Church. They have done this with unfailing sound judgment and good humor. They have been a blessing to work with. I leave knowing that, under their leadership, the affairs of St. John’s are in the best of hands.
For millions of Americans 2020 was a financially disastrous year. Although the Church’s finances were somewhat affected, St. John’s ended the year with money in the bank. Receiving a Paycheck Protection Program grant from the federal government, certainly helped our 2020 finances. Additionally, our November stewardship campaign was successful. On December 20 the Vestry adopted an in-the-black budget for 2021 – expected income exceeds expected expenses.
St. John’s also has cause to celebrate the raising up of David Malek and Kevin McGrane for ordination to the priesthood. On Jan 23, David will be ordained to the transitional diaconate and close to July 23 to the priesthood. Since Kevin is already ordained as a Deacon, he’s on a fast track toward the priesthood. Your witness and support have helped make this possible for these men. They and you, dear servants, were listening as the Lord was speaking.
In addition to having the opportunity to get to know many of you, another great joy for me in 2020 has been working alongside the Reverends Dr. Warren Crews and Kevin McGrane. Warren and I have been allies for longer than I have been ordained. But we had never worked together. This year has taught us things about ourselves and each other that we hadn’t known before. We are closer because of it, and I am grateful that Warren and I will continue to meet as colleagues and friends. Before 2020 I had known Deacon Kevin for far less time and less well than Warren. It has been a delight to engage in ministry with Kevin and to appreciate his many talents and skills. The Church is blessed to have Kevin as an ordained minister of the Gospel.
In two weeks I will be saying goodbye to you. I’d only been at St. John’s for a couple of months when I told my husband that leaving was going to be difficult because I had already grown so fond of you. You are a congregation ablaze with energy, creativity, and humor. I suspect that the average age of a St. John’s parishioner is younger than any other church in the Diocese. You have youth and enthusiasm on your side. Beginning on Feb 1, your pastor will be the Rev. Rebecca Ragland, someone I have known for many years. Rebecca is an ideal fit for St. John’s, as she is also energetic, positive, and passionate about racial justice. St. John’s future is bright because you will not fail to ask for God’s help: “Speak, Lord, for your servants are listening.” I look forward to learning of all the good things the people of St. John’s are doing in response to God’s answer. Amen.
The Reverend Sally S. Weaver is the priest-in-charge at St. John's.
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Various members of the St. John's congregation contribute to this blog. For editorial suggestions, contact Jeff McIntire-Strasburg at firstname.lastname@example.org
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